Hello there! Let me welcome you to my blog, Nonrandom Evolution! I’m Jake, and I’m a 25 year old college student (life happens!) majoring in psychology, specifically behavioral neuroscience. I’m extremely passionate with regard to the sciences and the popularization of science, beyond the regular audience in the classroom and the lab. I believe as Neil deGrasse Tyson believes that, “If you’re scientifically literate, the world looks very different to you. And that understanding empowers you.” (Let me know in a comment if you sang that in NDT’s voice your head rather than said it in your own!) And what is that empowerment he’s talking about?
Well, for one, scientific literacy pushes you to be more rational and logical when making decisions which, in turn, reduces the harmful influences of pseudoscience and irrational forms of thinking. For example, if you’re scientifically literate you’re much less likely to be conned by a so-called psychic who claims to be able to speak to your dead relatives and friends or reads your palms and magically understands your future. You’re going to understand that this isn’t possible, and you’re going to be a few dollars richer for it. But that’s really not much of an example, is it? This, however, is:
If you’ve been following current events around the globe (this was written April 23rd, 2013), you may have noticed that there has been a serious outbreak of measles among children in the UK. (I will source this at the bottom of the page).*** Well, a bit over a decade ago, a doctor named Andrew Wakefield published a report in the Lancet, a medical journal, linking the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine with autism. As is always done in science, other groups of scientists set out to replicate the results. It was found, then, that not only did Wakefield falsify his results thereby committing fraud, “He has also been found guilty, following a fantastic piece of investigative journalism by Brian Deer of The Sunday Times, of unethical research behaviour, needlessly carrying out painful and invasive tests on autistic children, and bribing children at a birthday party £5 each to give blood samples. In the wake of the conflict-of-interest and unethical research findings, the Lancet retracted its original article. The GMC has struck him off for those findings, not for his stance on MMR.” (Source: http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/culture/tomchivers/100008226/mmr-autism-scare-so-farewell-then-dr-andrew-wakefield/)
In the wake of all this, pardon the pun, Wakefield’s medical license was revoked, and he is no longer a medical doctor. But, and this is a big but, to this day many scientifically illiterate parents are not getting their children the MMR vaccine based on this fraudulent research because they fear their children will become autistic, hence the measles outbreak in the UK. The unfortunate reality is that one of every thousand people who contracts measles will die. And, there are multiple studies which can be found in reputable medical journals online which show that the MMR vaccine does not cause autism, yet parents across the globe are still reluctant to get their children the vaccine. This boils down to scientific illiteracy… I especially liked this article by a man and his wife who both hold doctorates in physics and chemistry, respectively: http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/life-and-physics/2013/apr/19/mmr?CMP=twt_fd
On this blog, I’ll be writing about topics which interest me and my (eventual) readers. Topics with regard to psychology / neuroscience and evolutionary theory will, of course, be the main topics, but I will delve from time to time into the “wall” between religion and science, politics affecting science (such as the current debate on whether or not evolution and creationism should be taught in the classroom), and sharing my opinion on chosen current events around the world. I will also talk about religion from time to time, as (1) I was raised Catholic and am no longer religious which gives me a, shall we say, certain perspective on things, (2) it’s a subject that isn’t talked about nearly as much as it should be which slows and, in some cases, even halts progress: progress being of course a positive evolution of religious thought and doctrine (yes, religions evolve, too!), and (3) there’s a lot of “good” and a lot of “bad” inherent to religion requiring us, homo sapiens, to be open and honest about it, so that we can eliminate as much of the “bad” as we can. I’d like to think that most, if not all, rational humans would agree that fundamentalism, radicalism, extremism, etc., need to go! (Also, it needs to be realized that our religions were not created equally; some are inherently better or worse than others. We’ll definitely talk about this again.)
Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoy this blog! If you like it enough, please follow me!
**I suggest checking out the intro to Cosmos on YouTube to get an idea of what I’m talking about in regards to Sagan’s “way with words.” Also, for basic insights into Sagan’s philosophy, check out the Pale Blue Dot speech. Cosmos the series is available on Netflix, or you can purchase it from Amazon as I did. Sagan also wrote a number of books on various topics.